HC Deb 11 May 1960 vol 623 cc411-2
31. Mr. Leavey

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will introduce legislation to enable him to exercise wider powers in relation to area transport users' consultative committees.

Mr. Hay

No, Sir. We do not for the present propose to introduce legislation to alter the powers of these committees.

Mr. Leavey

As a number of recommendations are being made for the closure of stations, while the whole question of the railway organisation is now in the melting-pot, would it not be desirable for my right hon. Friend to make a general recommendation that those considerations should be held in abeyance until the over-all policy is made clear? Is it not undesirable that there should be these piecemeal closures when, perhaps at a reasonably short-distant time in the future, those decisions will require to be reversed in keeping with a national decision?

Mr. Hay

I rather doubt whether the assumption my hon. Friend makes from the review which is being carried out by the planning, or advisory, group is justified. Certainly we must remember that in the current year £90 million is having to be found in direct subsidy for the B.T.C. I do not think we should lose any opportunities for useful economies, provided they can be properly made.

Mr. Jennings

Is my hon. Friend aware that 93.5 per cent. of the cases brought for consideration before the consultative committees have been found in favour of the British Transport Commission? Is he aware that in at least one case I have given him irrefutable evidence that the decision was forestalled by the British Transport Commission by at least two months? He is now investigating another case—that of the famous "Tutbury Jinnie", which I brought to his notice a few nights ago. Will he agree that now the whole procedure of the transport users' consultative committees is a complete farce so far as consumer protection is concerned?

Mr. Hay

No, I am afraid that I cannot agree with all those assumptions made by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Popplewell

Would the hon. Gentleman pay tribute to the very useful work which the transport users' consultative committees have been doing and are doing? At the same time, would he have another look at the financial situation? At present the British Transport Commission has to bear the whole of the cost of the work of the committees. Might it not be to advantage and win more confidence among the general public if the cost of staffing and working these committees were borne from other sources than the British Transport Commission?

Mr. Hay

In reply to the first part of that supplementary question, I have answered a number of Adjournment debates in this House about the working of the committees, and I believe that on every occasion I have paid warm tribute to the work they are doing. I repeat that tribute this afternoon. I shall look into the second part of the supplementary question, about finance, but I am not very hopeful of being able to change the present practice.

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